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  • Will White, United Way Bay Area

A Thriving California for all, not just a few

The 2018 legislative session is starting in Sacramento and advocates from across the state will connect with leaders in the Capitol about shared policy priorities. UWBA believes California is ripe for opportunity in two areas that support policies promoting economic success for all.

Our Public Policy team will be sharing the top two advocacy priorities for us and others within California’s United Way network, including:

1. Expand the California Earned Income Tax Credit to cover more workers.

Created in 2015 by the California Legislature, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit that puts cash directly into the pockets of low-income workers who are struggling to make ends meet. Thanks to the advocacy of United Way and CalEITC coalition partners, workers earning up to $22,300 a year are eligible and families with children can receive a credit of up to $2,775.

The CalEITC is helping thousands of working Californians leverage their income, but there are a few key populations that are currently excluded from the credit. This year, our state association United Ways of California will co-sponsor AB 2066 with Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz) that will expand the credit for the following populations:

  • Workers age 18-24

These younger workers are currently excluded from the credit, even though some are juggling part-time work with busy school schedules, while others are working full-time and still struggling to make ends meet. This age group experiences poverty at higher rates than any other adult age group. AB 2066 will help ensure young workers have another system of support during a vital period of their career development.

  • Workers aged 65 and up

While some may be able to retire from the workforce and live comfortably after the age of 65, more Californians are having to remain in the workforce longer to make ends meet. Workers age 65 and older do not qualify for the CalEITC, despite senior poverty being on the rise in California for the last two decades. AB 2066 will extend eligibility to the growing population of low-income seniors who are still in the workforce.

  • Workers filing with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN)

Workers who file taxes with an ITIN are currently excluded from claiming both the federal EITC and CalEITC. These workers, many of whom are undocumented, are making valuable contributions to our economy and filing their taxes despite receiving few benefits. If passed, AB 2066 would extend CalEITC eligibility to these workers, allowing them to access a powerful safety-net resource.

Extending eligibility to these three populations will have a significant impact for California workers. If passed, AB 2066 will once again demonstrate California’s leadership in adopting policies that benefit working families and individuals.

2. Bring ‘Healthy Start for Child Success’ back for struggling families.

Launched by the California legislature in the 1990’s, the Healthy Start Initiative provided comprehensive school-based services to improve the lives of youth and families throughout the state. Services included healthcare, counseling, parenting and health education, academic support, violence prevention, youth development, employment preparation, and more.

From 1992-2007, Healthy Start gave over 1,400 grants to schools in partnership with child-family caregiving agencies to support more than 2.2 million children throughout California. Children in schools that received Healthy Start grants improved their reading scores by 25 percent and math scores by 50 percent, and reduced absenteeism and detentions. Despite these gains, funding for the program was discontinued due to state fiscal constraints.

This year, the United Way network along with children’s coalition partners are advocating for $50 million in state funding to reboot the Healthy Start Initiative and reestablish the education and health gains realized by the program over its lifetime. This initial funding would give seed grants to high need schools and other child welfare providers to connect children living in poverty to health, mental health, screenings, and other support services.

By targeting and streamlining services to children and their families at an early age, the Healthy Start Initiative provides a path to a lifetime of good health and education outcomes.

Both the CalEITC and the Healthy Start initiative show how targeted interventions for workers, children, and families can have profound impacts on the everyday lives of Californians.

At a time when funding for many of our federal safety net systems may be in jeopardy, we in California have an opportunity to prioritize supports for working families. Stay up-to-date and see how you can support our advocacy efforts by following us on social media.

Will White is a Director of Policy & Government Affairs at United Way Bay Area. Will provides policy analysis, advocacy strategy and implementation, and program support. He also leads regional public policy efforts for United Ways of California. Will has a BA in History from NYU and MA in Urban Policy Analysis and Management from the New School in New York City, and is an experienced community organizer.

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